Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Creativity All Year Round

How do you keep the freedom and creativity of summer in your life as school starts?

One of the loveliest parts of summer for many families is the opportunity to watch their children’s creativity flourish.  Sometimes “I’m bored” can be the most powerful tool for dreaming and exploring.

For years, when my son came to me with the eternal “I’m bored” complaint, I would find myself listing off the millions of things he could do: read a book, play a card game, draw a picture, etc.  Often this would end up in a boredom standoff…me getting more and more frustrated that he wouldn’t try any of my suggestions, and he, diving deeper into the “I’m bored” pool. But, this summer, I’ve tried a new tactic.  When I hear “I’m bored,” I respond: “Cool! I look forward to seeing what you come up with to do.” And then I go back to whatever I was doing before.

Last week, we had one of those moments. Ten minutes went by, and I found my son up in a tree with three clothing hangers and a bunch of string.  Still not sure what he was doing, but he was happy, and he stayed there for at least an hour without mentioning the B-word.

But, while it may still feel like summer, back to school is just around the corner (or well on its way)!  So often during the school year, there isn’t even time to think about boredom. It’s a rush to get out of the house in time, a rush to get to after-school activities or to pick up from after care, a rush to read before bed.  And the weekends somehow feel the same. Wouldn’t it be lovely to allow the creativity that can flourish with summer into our lives during the school year, at least a little bit?

More than 70% of the children in the audience come home after seeing one of our shows and engage in show-related creative play or projects--like acting out a scene, drawing a character from the show, etc.

Bay Area Children’s Theatre has been doing surveys for many years, and we have learned that more than 70% of the children in the audience come home after seeing one of our shows and engage in show-related creative play or projects--like acting out a scene, drawing a character from the show, etc. These small moments of creativity are at the core of how children learn—by exploring, dreaming, and playing.  And in our Little Performers Class, we invite children to take a fantastical journey through a story led by their teacher. They try on characters, create artwork to support the story, and help to fill in all the details of their adventure.

Children who explore new ideas and stories strengthen their imagination, learn to visualize, and gain confidence in being able to create a “journey” in their own mind.  

So, this school year, perhaps seeing a show will be the key to unlocking a moment of creative passion in your child, or perhaps taking a class will open the door to imaginative thinking.  
The benefits are huge. Children who explore new ideas and stories strengthen their imagination, learn to visualize, and gain confidence in being able to create a “journey” in their own mind.  

Hope your family has a happy journey back to school and beyond!

Nina Meehan is the Executive Artistic Director of Bay Area Children’s Theatre. Register now for fall classes at

This post was originally published in the Piedmont Post.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Summer’s Here! Feline (and Other) Adventures Await!

Executive Artistic Director, Nina Meehan, talks summer, Pete the Cat, and to-do lists.
This article first appeared in Piedmont Post.  July 11, 2018

Summer can be a confusing time for families.  We all think, “Oh, summer is coming, it will be such a FUN time.” But, when I chat with other parents, it seems like summer is five times more challenging than the school year.  The kids are having an awesome time at camps or daycare, but parents are going crazy trying to figure out the ever-changing schedule of summer.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE evening picnics and weekend adventures, but the pressure for summer to be FUN is often a little overwhelming.

One antidote to the summer drive for family activity is a good book. For older kids, having leisurely hours to read a chapter book outside in a shady nook can be heavenly, and for the younger ones, what could be better than time with a parent, a grandparent or babysitter reading a favorite story aloud?  

Over the past few weeks, we have heard from so many families about one of their current favorite series of books: Pete the Cat!  Clearly, Pete has captured the imagination of children all over the Bay Area.  

Well, fear not parents, Bay Area Children’s Theatre has a perfect weekend morning or afternoon of pure FUN for you and your kids.  Yup…a rollicking musical version of Pete the Cat on stage! And, when you come, expect a crazy cat-filled trip!  

Seriously, there is something so delightful about a show that is funny and entertaining for adults and children alike. For parents, the show will remind them of TV favorites from “Nic at Night.”  And for the kids, it’s a giggle-fest musical journey. From the first reveal of Pete’s rock band to the grand finale, singing in the Biddle’s living room, this show MOVES.  We visit school, outer space, the Renaissance and even peek under the couch! It’s a whole summer’s worth of adventure in just 55 minutes!

Let’s embrace the summer of FUN, as Pete would have us do . . . find the time to explore creativity, share a moment together, eat something crazy!!  Pete the Cat wants all of us to just have a little Rock ‘n’ Roll fun, and I think he may be onto something! So, this summer, our challenge is to find those moments when we can put aside the “to-do” list, the schedule, the meal planning.  

Your Real Summer To-Do List

  • Build a fort in your living room out of blankets and shoes
  • Use a cardboard box to make a time machine or an astronaut’s helmet
  • Cook an entire meal with your kids that is RED--the color of Pete’s shoes
  • Make a rocket ship out of delivery boxes
  • And come see PETE THE CAT!!!

Nina Meehan is the Executive Artistic Director of Bay Area Children’s Theatre. BACT’s production of “Pete the Cat” rocks out through August 5 at BACT’s Berkeley Theatre Center, 2055 Center Street, Berkeley, CA 94704, with performances on Saturdays at 10:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 4:00 p.m. and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Recommended for ages 3 – 8.  or (510) 296-4433.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Pete the Cat Activity Guide

It's no secret audiences are LOVING Pete the Cat.  Kids are groovin' with our favorite feline, but don't let the fun stop at the theater!  Here are some great activities to keep the Pete fun going at home.

Hungry? How about a Pete the Cat snack?

Try this tasty graham cracker treat based on Pete's four groovy buttons!  What other snacks can you make that remind you of Pete?

Wish you had Magic Sunglasses? 
You can make your own with this fun project, and change the shape, style, and color to fit your magical needs!  What crazy-awesome world will you see?

Looking for a less ordinary project?  
Try the Pete the Catapult! This little catapult is a great family project.  Grab your own four groovy buttons and see how far you can make them fly.

And if you want to look a little more groovy...
It's time for a Pete that Cat hat! This hat also comes with instructions for a fun rhyming game.

So, what are you waiting for?  Get grooving today!

Friday, June 1, 2018

Who is Pete the Cat?

Get to know the hippest cat in town, here are a few words from leading man, Zachary Hansbany, also known as Pete the Cat!

 Hi everyone! I’m Zachary Hasbany, playing Pete in Pete the Cat. I just got back from traveling the country with BACT’s national tour of the wonderful Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site. 

BACT has become quickly another home for me, so I’m excited to share Pete the Cat with everyone starting on June 16th.  Pete is a musician cat in the 1960’s with many philosophies, especially that “life is a really really really big adventure.” Even when he gets caught by the cat-catcher, and blunders his way into a chaotic family environment, Pete keeps a positive attitude and adventures on. Getting to play Pete is such a delightful experience, because we can all learn from his perspective.

 On the roads that we take in life, it’s important to try hard with 100% effort, but when we get derailed, we can learn, adapt, and enjoy our new path. 

When we encounter a difficult path, we can remember another “’Pete Philosophy’ – life takes courage; be brave.” Keeping that in mind, I hope to see you all at this show, so we can enjoy this “groovalicious beautiful adventure” together!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Beautiful Oops! Activity Guide

It's hard to find a better book for fun, messy, creative activities than Barney Saltzberg's Beautiful Oops!  So, put on some paint clothes, and get ready to make something awesome out of even your worst "mistake."

Straw Blowing Art
What's more fun than bendy straws AND paint?  Probably nothing.  Practice fine motor skills and see what your paint splatter turns into.  The possibilities are infinite!

Tearing Paper
How many silly ways can you tear a piece of paper?  Put on your thinking cap and your yoga pants to explore the crazy ways you can tear paper, and create an art project.

Baking Soda Paint
Creativity explodes with this recipe that creates fun, fizzy paint.  What will your shapes create?

Torn Newspaper Art
Don't toss yesterday's paper in the recycle bin.  Instead tear it into shapes, and let those shapes determine what you paint!  It's fun, and eco-friendly!

Do you have any other ideas for Oops art?  Love everything Beautiful Oops?  We would love to hear from you!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Beautiful Oops! Jr Blogger Report

Our Jr. Blogger Sophie Knipp talks all about Beautiful Oops!

Beautiful Oops! is a very creative show where six animal friends come together to make a great show! The problem is: everyone keeps making mistakes. 

The show Beautiful Oops! shows very artistic sets and colorful scenes. “Lots of fun; and a lot of scenery overload,” says Hanna McPheron who plays the Stage Manager in the show.

One example of the very artistic set was during the fishing scene when the character Bunny, played by Mary Gibboney, learns that that her friends will always be there for her, even if she makes mistakes. The back wall of the set falls down at the start of the fishing scene, revealing a sheer fabric. You can see moving lights shaped as fish behind the fabric. It looks like a lake!

The set also had 3 projection screens that dropped down from the ceiling during scene changes. The artistic projections were of animated kids talking about art. 

Another cool part of the show was when the stage went dark, and the characters danced with light up hoola-hoops and ropes. The audience also participated. We were given tea lights and an activity bucket at the start of the show. We turned on the tea lights when the stage went dark, and colored a sticker that we stuck on the back of the stage wall at the end of the show. My sister, JoJo (7) especially liked to add her art work to the set.  “I like all the ways all the art supplies work in the show,” says Anna Smith, who plays the part of Alligator. 

There is a lot of sarcasm in this show! Even adults were laughing! One character named Pig, played by Andrew Mondellow, dreams of having a car. He sings the song, “Pig in a Car” which is a hysterical rock song. He always makes the audience laugh. On the way out of the theater, I heard people saying that the show was really funny!  

The other characters in the show are very playful too! Crocodile, played by Anna Smith; Elephant, played by Kevin B. Johnson; and Penguin, played by Amanda Nguyen love to do many things together! They play, sing ,dance, and make beautiful mistakes. 

Making mistakes is beautiful! It’s OK if you make mistakes. Good friends will always forgive you. Come and make beautiful mistakes and artwork with the cast of BACT’s show, Beautiful Oops!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

JR Blogger Chris Enjoys Willy Wonka

Junior Blogger, Chris Eppley, tells us all about his Willy Wonka experience.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Friday, January 12, 2018 1n San Francisco the Children’s Theater had the play “Willy Wonka” playing. This performance had great service before the play, after the play, and during the 15 minute intermission. Right before the performance “Willy Wonka” herself came out and pointed out the emergency exits and gave credit to all the companies that helped to make the play possible. The characters were enthusiastic, funny, creative, exciting, sad at some times and happy at other times. The cast was talking to the audience. An oompa loopa puppet high-fived a little girl in the audience.  

The boring parts of the movie and book were changed into songs.

The cast “twisted it up” a bit. Willy Wonka, the Candy Man, poor guy, Grandma Georgina, and Phineous Trout were played by Mary Gibboney. Charlie Bucket by Juan Castro. Oompa loompa #1, Mrs. Bucket, and Mrs. Gloop by pauli N. Amornkul. Oompa loompa #2, Veruca Salt, Matilda, Grandma Josephina, and Ms. Teavee by LeighAnn Cannon. Mike Teavee, Mr. Bucket, and Mr. Salt by Kailah Cayou. Agustus Gloop, Grampa Joe, James, and Mrs. Beauregarde by Paul Loper. Violet Beauregarde and Grandpa George by Chelsea Wellot.
A four year old named Maya says”So good.” Other audience members like the simple set, the part of Wonka retiring, just the show itself, the music, characters, and singing. Also, for the adults there are some jokes involving the card game “Gin.” There are famous names used like Edgar Allan Poe. For an exciting part of the play there are “BUBBLES!” (Veruca Salt quote)

Interviews with Agustus and Violet:
Chris: How long did you practice?
Agustus: 5 weeks.
Violet: 5 weeks.
Chris: What were your favorite parts?
Agustus: My number “I Eat More!”
Violet: Working with Oompa Loompas and pretending to lick Charlie’s hand.
Chris: Anything you just want to say that’s not in the other questions?
Augustus: Since there weren’t many people who had screens who weren’t rich at the time the play was based on it’s a good experience to go to a play, not a movie.
Violet: The cast worked well together overcoming things like our original Wonka calling in sick at the last minute.
Chris: Your original Wonka was sick?
Violet: Yes the original Wonka was a man. This Wonka is a woman.
Chris: I couldn’t even tell she didn’t get as much practice as the rest of you guys!
Violet: Yep. That’s why she’s called Madam Wonka in this production.
Chris: Instead of Mister Wonka.
Violet: Yep.

Chris: Thanks Agustus. Thanks Violet. Bye.